The Dallas Wake-Up Call…

Seven days. That is all it took for the National Football League to be reeling from yet another tragedy.

Saturday morning, most of the world awoke to the news that Jerry Brown, a linebacker on the Dallas Cowboys practice squad, was killed in a car accident. The accident was caused by his teammate and close friend, Josh Brent. Authorities say Brent was driving at a high rate of speed when his car hit a curb, flipping at least once and skidding approximately 900 feet before coming to rest. It is now known that Brent was driving under the influence of alcohol.

Awful. Just awful. Drunk driving claims yet another life. The statistics for fatalities as a result of drunk driving have not been released yet for 2012 since the year is not over. In 2011, there were 9, 878 fatalities, according to data released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 2011 marked the first year that drunk driving fatalities were under 10,000. While that does give organizations whose main focus is to educate the country about the dangers and consequences of drunk driving, it is a difficult “victory” to celebrate when 9.878 people lost their lives as a result of the problem.

So once again, seven days later, we all ponder the question: why? Why get behind the wheel knowing you are drunk? Why not call someone to pick you up? Why do you need to drink that much in the first place?You would think after last week’s wake up call in which former Kansas City Chief Jovan Belcher killed his girlfriend before committing suicide, players, would be placing more value on their lives as well as those around them. Instead, another mother has to bury her son because a man chose to make a bad decision that ultimately affects the lives of many. Sad. Just sad. To make matters worse, Saturday was not the first time Brent had driven under the influence. In 2009, Brent was charged with driving under the influence(DUI). He was given 60 days in jail. It is obvious that there is a disconnect somewhere when it comes to Brent, alcohol and driving.

Over the past few days, I have heard a lot of talk about NFL players and drinking. A lot of journalists seems to be suggesting that this is a league problem. This year alone, 18 NFL players have been arrested for suspicion of DUI, up from seven in the previous year. That breaks down to a percentage of .7%. However, drunk driving is not just an NFL problem, it is a nationwide problem and I fail to understand why. I do not understand getting behind a wheel drunk and risking the lives of others and well as your own. Most of us have access to family, friends and complete strangers who are willing to help us get to our desired destination if we are too drunk to drive. Well, I should not say us and we because I do not drink. Anymore. I made the decision to stop consuming alcohol nine years ago and it is one of the best decisions I have ever made. I now have the chance to be one of those people I just talked about. If a friend were to call and say, “Hey, I am too drunk to drive. Can you come pick me up?”, I would be there before they have a chance to find their keys and change their minds.

The NFL does believe that the issue of drunk driving is a very serious one.  However, I think it is time for the NFL to step up to the field and adopt a stricter policy when players are arrested for DUIs, especially multiple times. According to USA Today, 18 players have been arrested for suspicion of DUI, up from seven last year. Since 2000,177 players have been arrested for DUIs, most notably Donte Stallworth who struck and killed Mario Reyes as he was crossing the street one morning in March 2009. Stallworth admitted he had been drinking. Ultimately, Stallworth was given a 30 day jail sentence and settled out of court. Stallworth was suspended one year from the NFL but for me that does not seem to be enough. I know the league is made up of hundreds of players who do not drink and drive but one driving under the influence is too many.

While it is easy to make this out to be an NFL problem, like I said earlier, this is a nationwide problem.  Drunk driving is one of the leading causes of death. Men are more likely to drink excessively than women are, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Men average 12.5 binge drinking episodes a year compared to 2.7 for women. Oddly enough, I suspect that the reason men tend to binge drink and then “assume” they are ok to drive, has a lot to do with what I talked about in my blog last week. Men are prideful. They do not like to ask for help. They do not like to show weakness. Telling another man that you are not capable of driving home implies that you are not capable of “handling your liquor.” All of this challenges your “manhood.”

The NFL is a major player, not only in our country but in this world. I hope the 2009 death of Reyes and the 2012 death of Brown serve as a catalyst to fight the “war” against drunk driving . The NFL has the opportunity to use these instances to educate their players as well as people around the globe that driving under the influence is dangerous, risky and stupid. One wake up call should be enough.